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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I am not normally a person who would write to you, but I am prompted to do so as a result of the letter you printed relating to obtaining inheritance tax, estate tax or income tax incentives for people to become organ donors.

I am a lawyer who practices in the estate and tax field, and I thought that the proposition was interesting from that standpoint.

However, as a registered organ donor, I question both the proposition and your support of it. My questioning does not concern the need to get more organ donors, but it concerns the motivation of people to donate organs in return for tax relief.

I am concerned that our society needs to have "incentives" to do that which is right. Do we really need to have income tax deductions to support our favorite charities? Do we need tax incentives to encourage people to employ persons otherwise unemployable? Will charitable giving collapse if, for some reason, charitable deductions were eliminated from the Internal Revenue Code?

I would hope that the answer to these questions would be no, so I am not in support of the person who suggests that we give incentives to encourage people to become organ donors. The incentive should be that you are doing the right thing for the right reason. There is no other incentive necessary. -- ALFRED K. HETTINGER, ALLENTOWN, PA.

DEAR MR. HETTINGER: The answer to all of your questions could well be "yes." And I agree with you that no incentive other than doing the right thing for the right reason should be necessary.

However, at this time 66,717 people are on organ-donor waiting lists, praying for a heart, a kidney or a liver that will save their lives. Last year, 4,800 people died waiting for that prayer to be answered. Is it more immoral for someone to die because there is a shortage or organs available, or to offer tax incentives to those who would otherwise bury their dear departed, organs and all? To me, it seems like a terible waste.

My philosophy coincides with that of the late Robert Test, who wrote the following:


At a certain moment a doctor will determine that my brain has ceased to function and that, for all intents and purposes, my life has stopped.

When that happens, do not attempt to instill artificial life into my body by the use of a machine. And don't call this my "deathbed." Call it my "bed of life," and let my body be taken from it to help others lead fuller lives.

Give my sight to a man who has never seen a sunrise, a baby's face or love in the eyes of a woman.

Give my heart to a person whose own heart has caused nothing but endless days of pain.

Give my blood to the teen-ager who has been pulled from the wreckage of his car, so that he might live to see his grandchildren play.

Give my kidneys to one who depends on a machine to exist from week to week.

Take my bones, every muscle, every fiber and nerve in my body, and find a way to make a crippled child walk.

Explore every corner of my brain. Take my cells, if necessary, and let them grow so that someday a speechless boy will shout at the crack of a bat and a deaf girl will hear the sound of rain against her windows.

Burn what is left of me and scatter the ashes to the winds to help the flowers grow.

If you must bury something, let it be my faults, my weaknesses, and all my prejudice against my fellow man.

Give my sins to the devil. Give my soul to God. If, by chance, you wish to remember me, do it with a kind deed or word to someone who needs you. If you do all I have asked, I will live forever.

To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby's "Keepers," P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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